Reviewed: November 28, 2006
Released: November 14, 2006
Itís only been a couple weeks since Need for Speed: Carbon shipped for all the other consoles, so I hadnít even finished my 360 Carbon career before the PS3 version showed up for review. At least I had played enough to see what was new (not much), what was changed (very little).
Need for Speed: Carbon comes off as a sequel to last yearís Most Wanted game, at least in story and the return of several key characters as well as the introduction of a whole new gnarly cast of rad street racers.
The racing focus has also shifted to canyon racing, obviously inspired by the recent Tokyo Drift movie. Youíll still mix it up on the city streets, but when it comes time to take on a territory boss youíll be headed to those twisty roads on the outskirts of town for some ďwin or die tryingĒ racing action.
For those of you who played last yearís Need for Speed: Most Wanted, youíll most likely find yourself in familiar territory with Carbon. For the most part very little has changed and to be honest, thatís probably a good thing. The control structure is virtually the same, as are most of the events.
There are still circuit races, sprints, speed traps, drifting, and checkpoint races, which is essentially the same as the tollbooth events of the prior game. They still have free roam as well, which allows you to travel the world map looking for events to partake in, or just cruise around to engage in random races with other tuners. You can travel to the various events on the world map either by setting your GSP to guide the way, or you can instant travel to the events if you just want to jump straight into the action and avoid the cops.
Yes, like Most Wanted, youíll also have to contend with the cops. When they spot you, theyíll pretty much begin pursuit regardless of your wanted level, but as always, the higher your wanted level the more effort they put into trying to arrest you. Their presence isnít quite as large as it was in Most Wanted, but itís still something youíre always having to contend with.
A big difference from Most Wanted is found in the single-player mode where rather than competing for ranking and bragging rights against 15 other drivers you are now competing over turf Ė think gang wars with cars, but instead of back alley brawls you race for territorial rights.
As you progress through the game you take over sections of the world map in a fashion similar to Saintís Row. Work your way around the map, and with any luck, youíll eventually eliminate all the competition. Still, not all turf can be taken without a fight, and again, like Saintís Row, rivals will occasionally strike back and try to re-take some of their lost land.
The world map is basically divided up into 4 larger territories, each containing several separate sections of land or turf, within each slice of land there are usually about 3 events you need to win in order to take absolute control of that section of the world map. Take over the entire territory and you open up a race against a rival gang leader in a new mode known as a Canyon Duel.
In the duel, you take turns against your rival screaming down a mountainside with reckless abandon. First you follow, with the whole point being to stay as close to the gang leader as possible until you reach the finish line. During your trip down the mountain you accumulate points, but once you reach the finish, itís the other guys turn. From here, you must try and keep your distance, as you move along, points he gains are deducted from the points you had previously earned. Reach the bottom with points remaining and the event and the territory is yours. Itís a simple concept for a new mode, but given the fact that reckless driving can cause you to go careening through the guardrails and over the mountainside adds tension and excitement. Itís a great new mode of play.
Most all of the cars feel and handle similarly despite being broken up into three classes, Muscle, Tuners, and Exotics. As you might expect, various parts of town feature specific types of cars, so you are constantly mixing up the vehicle types on a race per race basis. And it is probably worth mentioning, even though you canít blame EA, but the lack of a rumble controller really detracts from the more powerful cars, especially the muscle cars.
And on the subject of the SIXAXIS, the motion control is there but not nearly as integrated as it was in Ridge Racer. Rather than replacing the analog stick it merely enhances it so once you have steered to either extreme you can tilt the controller for a hardly noticeable boost in turning angle.
Another new addition to the game is the use of crew members or wingmen. Basically you can unlock and hire crew members to increase your odds of winning events. Crew members will assist you by highlighting the shortcuts on the courses, allowing you to draft off of them for speed boost or blocking rival drivers from getting by you.
I quickly learned to hate most of these ďhelpersĒ since they usually prevented me from winning a lot of races. Thankfully, most events require your ďteamĒ to win, so a wingman win is just as good as your winning, but that doesnít help my Talladega Nights ego. The only thing that is truly gained from having these new crew members is the fact that you pretty much need them to fabricate and autosculpt upgrades to your car.
Probably the greatest change to the series is purely cosmetic and not really all that important to the actual gameplay. The new autosculpt feature pretty much allows you freeform any part of your car can be visually altered to suit your personal taste, whether that is front and rear ends, spoilers, hoods or what have you.
Basically each piece that can be sculpted has various slider bars that can be adjusted to flair out air dams, adjust the angle of your spoilers, lower the profile of your tires, twist your rims; the list goes on and on. Essentially this makes the visual options for your cars almost limitless. Iím sure the next Need for Speed game in the series is likely to continue with the autosculpt features, itís quite nice.
Aside from autosculpting, each of the three car classes are upgradeable with various levels of performance enhancements. Engine, transmissions, tires, suspension and of course nitrous are all available with numerous levels of upgrades. The addition of these parts can alter your cars performance dramatically and as you might have guessed, they become necessary later in the game if you expect to keep on winning.
As expected, Need for Speed: Carbon has an extensive online mode, choked full of all the races you will be familiar with from playing through the career. This is great because it prolongs the life of the game that, when all is said and done, has a career mode that feels considerably shorter than Most Wanted.
Much like Project Gotham 2, where earning kudos increased your level; Carbon dished out experience points based on your online performance, making it possible to rank all the way up to level 50. In fact, level 50 isnít the top.
Aside from online sprints and circuit races, we have the all-new Pursuit Tag and Pursuit Knockout. In tag, one player drives their streetcar and all the other players drive in police cars attempting to stop you. The player who managed to evade arrest from the greatest length of time is the winner, simple. In knockout, players race around a circuit and the driver in last place in turned into a cop in an attempt to catch the other drivers.
With the exception of the new wingman addition to the game, Carbon combines the best parts of Most Wanted and Underground to create a unique hybrid that works and plays great. There were a few things missing from the PS3 like the photo mode where you could pause the action at any time and position a virtual camera to take a cool snapshot, then share your images online.
In many ways Need for Speed: Carbon is visually comparable to the 360ís Most Wanted Ė at least from a technical standpoint, but when all is said and done it has more in common with the Underground series. Racing takes place strictly at night, and the look of the game is decidedly fluorescent, full of well-lit roads riddled with blue, purple and red neon lights. For a game that takes place at night, the game isnít really that dark, at least in the city. But things get dangerously dark up in the canyons.
In keeping with the look of former Need for Speed games, Carbon makes extensive use of blurring and tracers to create and even greater sense of speed. However, the cool transparent vortex of the drafting wake has now been replaced with ugly blue streamers. The PS3 also uses heavy blurring to give the illusion of speed (read: maintain acceptable framerate), but it ultimately makes portions of the game look downright ugly at times. This does not bode well for a next-gen system that comes out a year after the 360.
There are several camera views to choose from while racing and cruising around the city including chase, bumper, and a gorgeous hood view where you can view the city lights reflectedin real-time. Thankfully, the streets no longer have that permanent "wet look" about them, at least until it rains.
Carbon also continues with its heavy use of cinematics to try and give this racing game an actual plot. Real-world actors and actresses attempt to carry the story as they walk in and out of their colorful cartoon surroundings.
Some of the gameís greatest visuals come from those new Canyon Duels I mentioned earlier. Thereís something unbelievably exciting about racing down a mountainside as the great visuals pull you into the intensity of the event. The cliffside, the trees, the bright city lights far off in the distance do an amazing job of making you feel like youíre racing out in the middle of nowhere with nothing but the winding, twisting road ahead of you.
Adding to the tension and the visual splendor are the break away guardrails, or sometimes the lack of any guardrails. If you drive too dangerously you can crash right through them and go careening over the side. When you hit the rails and crash the game goes into slow motion, the rail breaks apart, sparks fly and your car tips over the side. Awesome stuff, Canyon Duels rock.
The cars sound great! Muscle car engines rumble and roar with pure power (even if you canít feel that power in your hands), while the tuners and exotics carry with them the awesome whine as their turbo chargers kick in as they shift through their gears. Tires screech and cry out as you tear through the corners and lay the rubber down. In essence all the sound effects directly related to the vehicles are great, and each car has itís own distinct audio depending on the car class and engine modifications youíve added.
Musically the game is very much what you have come to expect from the series, rockiní songs, gangster rap tunes and the Michael Bay style action music that accompanies those infernal police pursuits. Once again, I canít help but mention the Canyon Duels, as these segments seem to contain the music I liked best. They features heavy tribal-like drumming and percussions (almost like the battle scenes in the new Battlestar Galactica series) that create great atmosphere and tension as you race those windy roads. A solid job all around.
With a lengthy and challenging career mode and a near perfect, if not entirely standard online component, Need for Speed: Carbon is another solid and enjoyable addition to this familiar and classic racing series.
If you enjoyed Most Wanted or the Underground games, you could to a lot worse than to invest in Carbon. There are plenty of race types online and off and lots of cars and customizable options available to earn. Carbon is everything to have come to expect from a Need for Speed game, and with that said, itís easy to recommend the purchase to race fans.
Need for Speed: Carbon is a solid racing game for the PS3. I still have to give props to Ridge Racer for the best graphics, but for the most involving gameplay, Carbon wins hands down, and I canít wait to see what the next NFS game has in store for us.
I have to admit, I do miss the drag racing and manual shifting, especially now that we have serious speed and acceleration with muscle cars and exotics, but I supposed the all-new Canyon Duels are an adequate replacement, at least for one title.
One thing thatís great about EA is that they never skimp on options; this game is loaded with things to see and do. This series has been a continual success for a good reason. The racing and the physics are always right on the money and with Carbon we get everything we know and love about Need for Speed Ė another solid and enjoyable racer.